Mighty Red Pen

December 8, 2011

Been naughty . . . or nice?

Filed under: Lit review — mighty red pen @ 8:36 pm

I love stumbling across stuff like melaniemross’s Etsy shop and its cache of jewelry that could make a lit lover’s heart sing. There’s everything from the Edgar Allan Poe earrings to the Irish Writers bracelet. And I have a soft spot for the creepy awesomeness of the Truman Capote (and his cat) earrings. (There’s also a whole section of Pantone jewelry for the graphic designer on your list.)

Here are the Flannery O’Connor earrings:

While browsing, I also came across these supercool Flannery O’Connor “Wise Blood” earrings at the shop of DesignsbyAnnette:


BTW, if Edgar Allan Poe is your bag, check out the full range of funky EAP gear, which is sure to be all the rage once The Raven comes out. Yowzers.


November 28, 2011

The game is afoot

Filed under: Lit review — mighty red pen @ 7:16 pm
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Film adaptations of literary texts. They can be so gratingly godawful (“And Then She Found Me,” “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (Swedish version) and “Tales From Earthsea,” I’m looking at you), stretching the fabric of the story too far or altering the nature of the characters until they are unrecognizable. Or altogether introducing characters and plotlines that have no relation whatsoever to the original story.

And yet, other adaptations take as many liberties with the plot line or characters but manage to reveal something fresh and interesting about the story. For me, the BBC’s “Sherlock” (which, yes, we’re just getting around to watching) falls into this category. I love me some some straight up Jeremy Brett-style Conan Doyle, but I am really really enjoying what they’ve done here.

September 26, 2011

There’s a party goin’ on right here

Filed under: Lit review,Perilous punctuation,Wordsworthy — mighty red pen @ 6:42 pm
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Well, hello there! Did everyone have an enjoyable National Punctuation Day on Saturday?

Saturday also marked the start of Banned Books Week, and I’m honoring the week by reading Lord of the Flies, a book I haven’t read since I was in high school.  I quizzed Mister MRP (an English teacher) about the value of teaching this book to our high school students nowadays. Among other things, he said it’s an appealing book for teachers because the symbolism is so accessible to students. What do you think? Is there still a place for this book in the current high school curriculum?

I don’t often re-read books because there are so many great ones I can barely find the time to read once, let alone twice. But I was compelled to read Lord of the Flies after reading Stephen King’s foreword to the most recent edition.

“Imagine my surprise (shock might be closer) when, half a century after that visit to the Bookmobile parked in the dusty dooryard of the Methodist Corners School, I downloaded the audio version of Lord of the Flies and heard William Golding articulating, in the charmingly casual introduction to his brilliant reading, exactly what had been troubling me. ‘One day I was sitting one side of the fireplace, and my wife was sitting on the other, and I suddenly said to her, “Wouldn’t it be a good idea to write a story about some boys on an island, showing how they would really behave, being boys and not little saints as they usually are in children’s books.” And she said, “That’s a first-class idea! You write it!” So I went ahead and wrote it.’


Bonus MRP moment: September 27 is MRP’s fifth blogoversary! Show some birthday love and please vote for MRP in the Grammar.net Best Grammar Blog of 2011 contest!

September 22, 2011

Without a doubt: no vs. know

Filed under: Lit review,Spellbound — mighty red pen @ 6:41 pm

I really liked this typo that I spotted in Financial Planning for the Utterly Confused by Joel Lerner.

I liked it because it made me think. “Each month you know doubt.” Okay, so in order to complete the sentence correctly, it’s supposed to be “Each month you no doubt,” as in “Each month you no doubt receive a monthly statement.” And yet, because the book is about financial planning (for the utterly confused), for a moment, even though it didn’t actually make sense in the rest of the sentence, my mind tricked me into thinking it was somehow correct. Because the truth is that each month I do know doubt, on finance or on any number of topics. So for a moment, it became a bit of a philosophical declaration of fact: “Each month you know doubt.”


September 20, 2011

Cents and centsability

Filed under: Lit review,Mad marketing — mighty red pen @ 5:35 pm

I just don’t know what to make of Jane Austen’s English Ivy Diamond Engagement Ring. If you are a true Jane Austen fan, is this something you would want because it makes you feel like Elizabeth Bennett, or do you scoff at the crass marketing of that which you love?

The ornate ad copy doesn’t help: “From the era of lace and love, grace and honor. This is a ring that is both romantic and perfectly logical. The romance is in the details . . . it always will be. . . .The Jane Austen English Ivy Ring is a ring for the romantically inclined.”

I’m a Jane Austen fan, and I’m leaning toward scoffing (even though, admittedly, the ring is pretty), but I’d be interested to hear from anyone who has a strong opinion either way, especially anyone who finds this a charming tribute to the author.

September 16, 2011

Mark your calendars

Filed under: Lit review,Perilous punctuation — mighty red pen @ 5:48 pm
Tags: ,

September 24 is right around the corner, and it’s going to be a big day.

1. September 24 is National Punctuation Day, in which we celebrate;  punctuation? in its many forms!!! So don’t hesitate, just punctuate! (For handy tips on using the exclamation point, visit here.)

2. It’s also the start of Banned Books Week, the week during which we celebrate “the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment” (so says the American Library Association). It takes place this year from September 24 to October 1. Many people like to celebrate by reading a frequently challenged book. For me, this coincides nicely with my plan to revisit The Lord of the Flies, which has been challenged in the past for excessive violence and for racist language, among other things.


September 13, 2011

Wordies to the nerdies

Filed under: Lit review,Word wars,Wordsworthy — mighty red pen @ 6:41 pm
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H/t to Mister MRP, who was hip to the fact of the Mumford and Sons tune “Sigh No More,” which draws its lyrical inspiration from Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.”

Here’s Mumford and Sons, and here is Shakespeare (according to Kenneth Branagh’s version).

Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more;
Men were deceivers ever;
One foot in sea and one on shore,
To one thing constant never;
Then sigh not so,
But let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny;
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into. Hey nonny, nonny.

Sing no more ditties, sing no mo,
Or dumps so dull and heavy;
The fraud of men was ever so,
Since summer first was leavy.
Then sigh not so,
But let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into. Hey, nonny, nonny.


Do you not know about War of the Words? It is described thusly on the website: “War of the Words is, simply put, the March Madness of the English language. It’s a bracket-style word tournament similar in structure to the popular NCAA basketball tournament except instead of picking the winner of a (1)Duke vs (16)Murray State match up you get to choose the (1)Palpable vs (16)Mongrel winner.”

Something for every word nerd, no? Brackets due September 22.

August 9, 2011

Found a great deal on the home typo network

Filed under: Lit review,Pop culture,Spellbound — mighty red pen @ 5:05 pm
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So the book club I belong to got me reading Augusten Burroughs’ Sellevision. Okay, it was cheeky and fun in a weird kind of way, I’ll give it that. It definitely made me think way more about the world of home shopping networks than I ever had before.  And it made me want to check out other books by Burroughs, so that’s a win for him, I guess.

It also gets the prize for most typos I have ever found in a book. Ever.

I just read Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. All 576 pages of it. And while I didn’t read Every.Single.Word., I can say that no typos jumped out at me (and no, this is not a dare. There may very well be typos). But in Sellevision, which is about half the size of Freedom, I spotted a ridiculous (at least six) number of typos.

What bugs me about the typos in Sellevision is that a. they were all easily avoided with some fact-checking because b. they mostly in brand names that I would guess were used to give the book some kind of cultural street cred. File that under: EPIC FAIL.

For instance, there’s Rogain when they meant Rogaine:

Kahula when they meant Kahlua:

Frangelica when Frangelico was wanted:

And Veuve Cliquot when they meant Veuve Clicquot.

Even more annoying was the misspelling of Concorde, which is correctly spelled just a few lines down the page:

This type of mistake was repeated on another page, when an identity crisis left Beanie Baby Peanut wondering if he was Peanut or Peanuts:

And those are just the ones I found. Sigh.


This level of sloppy proofreading put me in mind of “The Price of Typos” by Virginia Heffernan (h/t to Carol Fisher Saller, lately of Subversive Copy Editor and soon to be of Lingua Franca). Among other things, Heffernan writes, “Book publishers used to struggle mightily to conceal an author’s errors; publishers existed to hide those mistakes, some might say. But lately the vigilance of even the great houses has flagged, and typos are everywhere. Curious readers now get regular glimpses of raw and frank and interesting mistakes that give us access to unedited minds.” Heffernan points to a lot of interesting reasons why, to her mind, typos have become more prevalent in modern publishing, but basically the idea is this: people are sloppy, and typos are the written version of “your slip is showing.”

July 26, 2011

Making an impression

Filed under: Lit review,Wordsworthy — mighty red pen @ 6:32 pm

If you were ever wondering what Shakespeare might sound like if recited by George W. Bush or Paul Giamatti or even Droopy Dog, impressionist Jim Meskimen is here to show you.

H/t Fritinancy and Peter Sokolowski.

July 17, 2011

Possible revocation of my word nerd license

Filed under: Lit review,Wordsworthy — mighty red pen @ 6:59 pm

If you never hear from me again, it’s because I was summoned to a meeting of the English Major Review Board for failing for many years to realize that “Water, water, everywhere/and not a drop to drink” is a misquote. The actual line from Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is “Water, water, everywhere,/nor any drop to drink.”

Oh, the shame. I even studied “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”! And I really liked it. I think there’s a good chance I even wrote a paper about it.

Please don’t tell my professors, okay? There’s no defense in “But everyone gets it wrong!

Like the line “Summertime and the livin’ is easy,” this line from Coleridge is subject to endless riffing. In fact, I myself once wrote an article about the Southeast Asia tsunami of 2004 that had the headline “Water, water, everywhere” slapped on it by a zealous editor who was prone to facile rifffing. I’m not saying riffing is bad, I do it myself, there’s just a few lines I’d like to vote off the island because they are so obvious. If they could get off the island, what with the water, water, everywhere.

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